Library shelves annoying, high-pitched ‘mosquito’ device targeting loiterers

WELLINGTON (Reuters) — A New Zealand library that went beyond stern looks from librarians to ensure peace and quiet has turned off a “mosquito” device after drawing criticism for targeting young people with an annoying, high-pitched buzz.

The Papanui Library in the South Island city of Christchurch installed the device, which produces a high-frequency buzz that can be heard apparently only by people under 25, to deter youths from loitering outside and intimidating library users.

The library agreed to turn over a new leaf and evaluate its use after receiving criticism from the public and rights activists.

“Libraries should be places where children and teenagers are welcome, not excluded by deliberately making them uncomfortable,” Thomas Beagle, the head of the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties, said in a statement on his website condemning the device.

The Council of Europe said in 2010 the mosquito was a breach of human rights and anti-torture conventions. It also raised potential health problems that could arise from exposing children and babies to high-frequency sounds.

Despite shelving the device for now, the library said it had worked.

“Recent customer feedback said the device has helped to manage the behavior and customers feel safer entering our libraries,” Carolyn Robertson, head of libraries at the Christchurch City Council, said in an emailed statement.

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